Talented young Sydney karter, Jackson Harlow dominated KartSport New Zealand’s second ‘Virtual Club Day’ on the iRacing sim (simulator) platform on Saturday night – prompting top Kiwi finishers Cameron Dance (2nd) and Billy Frazer (3rd) to promise to double down on their efforts ahead of next weekend’s Giltrap Group and Carter’s Tyre Service sponsored event.
“I’ll definitely be giving it a crack,” former karter and now sim specialist Cameron Dance, from Auckland, told commentator David Sera in the post-race interview on Saturday night.”
Fellow former karter and now rising single-seater star Billy Frazer, who finished third, said that while he thoroughly enjoyed his race-long battle with Kiwi racer Tom Alexander and Wellington-based teen Ryan Wood, ‘practise makes perfect’ and with one more week of school holidays to go he would be ‘on the sim every chance I get’ to try and take the battle to Harlow.
After trialling the ‘Virtual Club Day’ concept created by KartSport New Zealand Technical Officer Travis Smith from Dunedin with a ‘suck-it-and-see’ event using Trophy Trucks and a single pit stop virtual race on the iRacing platform last Sunday evening, Smith and KartSport New Zealand received overwhelming support from members to run a second virtual event this weekend.
This time the vehicles chosen were classic Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore V8s from past Virgin Australia Supercars Championship years though rather than compete on a track here or across the Tasman, the circuit chosen was the wide open, flat expanses of the of 5.819km Silverstone, situated in Northamptonshire, Great Britain.
The event attracted an oversubscribed field of sim racers from across the ‘driving spectrum’ led by the winner of the inaugural event, Hamilton-based pro track cyclist – and sim specialist – 18-year-old Angus Claasen, current pro-level karters like Jackson Harlow and Ryan Wood, championship-winning current racing car drivers like 2019 Australian SuperUte series title holder Tom Alexander (from Auckland) as well as former NZ Superbike champion Sloan Frost, and Tony Stewart, the father of top New Zealand female kart-turned-car racers Ashleigh and Madeline Stewart, both from Wellington.
All-up the second ‘Virtual Race Meeting’ attracted a capacity 62 entrants and with 270 members now signed up to the iKartSport Virtual Club Day Facebook page, KartSport New Zealand President Graeme Moore says that the iKartSport group now constitutes the organisation’s largest ‘club.’
‘Not bad,’ he reckons, ‘when you consider it didn’t exist a month ago!”
“Honestly,” he said yesterday, “the response to this initiative has just blown us away and – to be fair the fact that some of our karters missed out on a spot on the grid was a function of the demand, not just from here either, but obviously around the world at this time, which has caught us all a bit by surprise..
‘What we have to do now, obviously is have a look over the next few days, at what we did right, and where we can improve, and come back before next weekend with some new and additional options to make sure no one who wants to compete misses out again.”
As to the format this time, 16-year-old Jackson Harlow, who competes in the Iame X30 class in the Australian Kart Championship and who admitted afterwards that he has been spending ‘a lot of time’ on his sim while in Australia’s COVET-19 lockdown, proved the driver to beat from the qualifying session where he was comfortably quickest – to the 8-lap heat race which he won from Ryan Wood, then the 20-lap Final which he led from start to finish.
Top Christchurch-based karter-turned-car racer Jaden Ransley joined Harlow on the front row of the grid for the heat race after setting the second quickest lap time in qualifying, only to literally ‘disappear’ from the screen and race order when his internet connection went on the blink!
That left karter Ryan Wood, and sim specialists Cameron Dance and Angus Claasen to battle mightily over the minor placings, crossing the finish line in that order ahead of Tom Alexander, Billy Frazer, former karter Tyler Richardson, and one of the youngest drivers in the field, 10-year-old Vortex Mini ROK class ace Blake Dowdall from Palmerston North.
To the 20-lap feature final and Harlow got an absolute blinder of a start from pole position to take a lead he never looked like losing.
First round winner Angus Classen tucked into second place with Tom Alexander third and Cameron Dance fourth. It didn’t take long for Ryan Wood to find a way past Dance then Alexander however, and by lap 8 Wood was then on Claasen’s tail. But the pair tangled a lap latter, sending Classen into the pits to check on damage and Wood back down the field before a spirited fightback in a bent and bruised car saw him back on Tom Alexander’s tail.
Getting by was going to be another thing until the group he was behind caught up on a lapped car, which, by baulking Alexander badly meant that both Wood and fellow teen Billy Frazer were able to muscle their way past Alexander, elevating Wood to third and Frazer to fourth.
Just as the order looked like stabilising again however, Wood himself was baulked by a car he was about to lap then tipped into a half spin by Billy Frazer which was the beginning of the end of Wood’s challenge for a place on the podium as he pitted to check on damage.
With five laps to go Fraser then pulled off one of the moves of the race to get past Alexander with a successful long way round side-by-side attempt early on the 16th lap. To be fair Alexander was back in front not long afterwards, but Frazer was like a dog with a bone, getting by finally on the last lap to claim third place behind Harlow and Cameron Dance.
FINAL (20 Laps)
- Jackson Harlow (Aust, Holden Commodore) 20 laps
- Cameron Dance (NZ Ford Falcon) +12.210
- Billy Frazer (NZ, Ford Falcon) +22.308
- Tom Alexander (NZ, Holden Commodore) +0.646
- Alex Pirlea (Aust, Holden Commodore ) +1.152
- Tyler Richardson (NZ, Ford Falcon) +1.551
- Angus Claasen (NZ, Holden Commodore) +3.879
- Blake Dowdall (NZ, Holden Commodore) +11.039
- Daniel Hall (NZ, Holden Commodore +20.734
- Riley Jack (NZ, Ford Falcon) –